Local stakeholders looking to bring more public art to downtown Springfield

Steve Ehret, an artist from Canton, Ohio, shares his imagination and creativity with Springfield as he created a mural on the side of a building along Columbia Street in downtown last year. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

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Steve Ehret, an artist from Canton, Ohio, shares his imagination and creativity with Springfield as he created a mural on the side of a building along Columbia Street in downtown last year. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Springfield stakeholders are looking at ways to increase the amount and types of public art in the city as recent projects have seen local and regional artists turn once blank walls into large, colorful murals, especially in the downtown.

That includes conversations related to forming a strategic plan that would map out the next five years as well as look at what is being done in other communities for guidance.

Future efforts to bring public art to the city, especially in the downtown, could include finding more consistent funding that would be invested in public art projects on a yearly basis as well as aiming to create two to three significant pieces of art annually.

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A Springfield YMCA employee walks past the Project Jericho mural on the north side of the YMCA. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Credit: Bill Lackey

A Springfield YMCA employee walks past the Project Jericho mural on the north side of the YMCA. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Credit: Bill Lackey

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A Springfield YMCA employee walks past the Project Jericho mural on the north side of the YMCA. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Future public art projects would not be just limited to murals, but could also include other types of art such as sculptures and other three-dimensional projects. Smaller scale projects could further engage local artists and lead to a continuation of their work being affixed to public fixtures in downtown areas.

Efforts to bring more public art to the area is part of larger plans to create a more “vibrant” downtown and community.

That work did not lose momentum during the pandemic as several projects were brought to fruition during that time. One project included “Hope Ahead,” a 20-by-30-foot mural that now greets bicyclists on Springfield’s bike path at the intersection of Leffel Lane and South Yellow Springs Street. That was completed last year.

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As it stands, there is no set budget for those types of public art efforts in the downtown. Instead the amount of money needed is based on the particular project, said Lauren Houser, the director of Project Jericho, which aims to provide in-depth visual and performing arts programming to youth and families across Clark County.

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A couple take shelter under umbrellas as they rush past the Rose City mural along Main Street in Springfield. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Credit: Bill Lackey

A couple take shelter under umbrellas as they rush past the Rose City mural along Main Street in Springfield. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Credit: Bill Lackey

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A couple take shelter under umbrellas as they rush past the Rose City mural along Main Street in Springfield. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Project Jericho formed in 1999 and has been involved in various art projects, including murals, around Springfield and in the downtown.

Conversations that Houser had with members of the Greater Springfield Partnership regarding how to bring more art to the area as well as previous public art projects led to the formation of the Downtown Public Arts Committee in 2018.

“Our goal is to make sure that everyone no matter their zip code or their life experience has access to high quality art experiences,” said Houser. The organization has been involved in the creation of murals in downtown before the formation of the public arts committee.

The committee includes a variety of non-profit groups, local \, foundations, government officials and businesses that are focused on downtown beautification efforts.

Public artwork in places such as downtown in recent years have been conducted by local artists, local youth as well as artists based out of town.

Funding for those type of public art projects come from variety of sources, including from federal, state and local entities. Sometimes the money for a particular project is crowdsourced locally or uses grants from organizations such as the Ohio Arts Council, said Houser.

Some projects can be in the range of $10,000 as that includes artist fess, materials, accommodations as well as celebrations held to unveil the completed art work.

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Aaron Jernigan rides his One Wheel electric skateboard in the front of the Rose City mural along Main Street in Springfield. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Credit: Bill Lackey

Aaron Jernigan rides his One Wheel electric skateboard in the  front of the Rose City mural along Main Street in Springfield. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Credit: Bill Lackey

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Aaron Jernigan rides his One Wheel electric skateboard in the front of the Rose City mural along Main Street in Springfield. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Factors that can impact prices of those artworks include the size and complexity of a particular piece. Sometimes particular artists are commissioned for types of art that may involve large spaces or hard to reach areas.

Houser said they want to make sure artists are being fairly compensated as well as making sure materials that are being used are of good quality in order to better maintain that artwork once it is completed.

She said that sometimes the idea for a mural and what it will represent comes first and then an artist whose style best aligns with that vision is selected. Other times, the artist is selected first or sought after because of their preexisting art and their style is seen as a good fit for the downtown.

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Moving forward, the goal is to engage with local artists and give them a platform but also to bring in more national artists as well.

In recent years, art selected from pools of local artists who have submitted their work have been wrapped around utility boxes in downtown Springfield, said Chris Schutte, vice president of Destination Marketing and Communications for the Greater Springfield Partnership.

There have also been efforts to present more works from artists, including local ones, in public spaces throughout the downtown area.

That also includes more murals being commissioned, including one greeting those on Springfield’s bike path, while others don walls of downtown buildings and businesses.

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Artist Kelley Booze works on the Project Jericho mural in 2021 that welcomes bike riders to Springfield as they travel north along the bike path near the intersection of Leffel Lane and South Yellow Springs Street. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Credit: Bill Lackey

Artist Kelley Booze works on the Project Jericho mural in 2021 that welcomes bike riders to Springfield as they travel north along the bike path near the intersection of Leffel Lane and South Yellow Springs Street. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Credit: Bill Lackey

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Artist Kelley Booze works on the Project Jericho mural in 2021 that welcomes bike riders to Springfield as they travel north along the bike path near the intersection of Leffel Lane and South Yellow Springs Street. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Murals that have been painted or printed and posted in the downtown since 2018 include printed works of Springfield native C. Coles Phillips, who was an early 20th century artist and illustrator, as well as hand painted art from current artist such as the “Greetings from Springfield” postcard style mural as well as one that is 12 feet high and 73 feet across and brought painted blooming flowers to the side of the Starrett and Fried building at 10 East Main Street.

The mural that is titled Rose City was from Project Jericho.

A mural from Canton artist Steve Ehret was completed last year on the side of a building on West Columbia Street that was full of color and featured what appeared to be interstellar creatures.

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